As noted in yesterday’s post, each day this week our Chicago personal injury lawyers are addressing one of Five Myths of Medical Negligence, as reported earlier this month by the American Association for Justice. Here is Myth #2:
Medical Negligence Myth #2: Malpractice Claims Drive Up Health Care Costs
There is no question that the cost of health care is out of control, and must be curtailed as part of health care reform. However, there is absolutely no empirical evidence showing that medical malpractice liability has anything but a marginal impact on health care costs. That’s putting aside the benefits of medical malpractice liability, in the form of increased patient safety, deterrence of negligent medical conduct, and compensating victims of medical negligence.
The AAJ report cites two recent studies: one conducted by the United States Government Accountability Office (GAO), and another done by the Congressional Budget Office (CBO). Both studies reach the same conclusion: the affect of malpractice claims on health care costs is marginal, at best. Indeed, data from 2007 from the National Association of Insurance Commissioners — an organization of state insurance regulators — supports this conclusion, showing that merely 0.3% of the $2.2 trillion spent on health care is spent on malpractice claims.
This dollar figure spent on malpractice claims is substantially less than the $29 billion in measurable “costs” of preventable medical errors — including future medical care, but not including emotional and other non-liquidated damages. If this “myth” concerning the relationship between medical malpractice claims and health care costs was correct, the percentage of health care costs associated with malpractice claims would be substantially higher than 0.3%. Note that this figure of 0.3% does not come from a biased or partisan study — it comes directly from the insurance companies.
Nonetheless, the insurance lobby has argued that doctors practice “defensive medicine” — the ordering of unnecessary tests and procedures — out of the fear of medical malpractice liability, rather than simply following the appropriate standard of care in treating patients. However, missing from the discussion is the fact that, in most institutions and contexts, doctors make more money if they perform more tests and procedures. In other words, they get paid based on the act of performing a test or procedure, not based on the outcome of the test or procedure. This also begs the question whether significantly less tests and procedures is the answer, given that each year hundreds of thousands of people are seriously injured or killed by medical malpractice.
At Passen & Powell, we will continue to fight for the rights of individuals, and their families, who are victims of medical malpractice. To speak with one of our Chicago medical malpractice attorneys, call us at (312) 527-4500 for a free consultation.